Citizens' Issues
Karnataka HC tells authorities to seek public consent for projects

Two-judge bench shows officials the rule book in response to complaint that Bangalore Metro project has damaged public places

The Karnataka High Court has said that the authorities must consult the public and get their consent while planning and executing infrastructure projects. The ruling, by Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice AS Bopanna was in response to a petition by the Environment Support Group, which has challenged the change in the land use at many places in Bangalore for the city's Metro project.

This order of the distinguished judges could serve as a precedent for much infrastructure development work that is being undertaken across the country.

The judges said that in case the land use is required to be changed, the state government and civic authorities must stick to the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961, which requires popular participation in public projects.

"In case of violation of direction issued by this Court, based on the statement made to this Court, the concerned officer/official shall be held responsible, for his having disobeyed the order passed by this Court, as also, the prescribed mandate of law," the judges said in their order delivered last week.

According to the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, physical planning should precede economic planning and should be well coordinated so that these projects do not adversely affect people's lives. It emphasises the balanced use of land and maintaining good environmental and hygiene standards.

The environment group had complained that the Eastern reach of the Bangalore Metro project violates the Comprehensive Development Plan of Bangalore and that it had in the process destroyed many parks, public spaces and neighbourhoods. The "bizarre Metro route" tears through the famous areas of Lalbagh and the adjoining areas of KR Road and Nanda Road.

Equally bizarre, was the state government's sale of a portion of Lalbagh to the Metro authorities for an "industrial project". The deputy commissioner of Bangalore was apparently given a free hand to sell the land through the horticulture department.

The matter was raised by the city environment group over a year ago and was to be heard towards the close of 2009. But it got delayed after the promotion of a judge as Chief Justice of Orissa High Court. The Metro work continued during this period, tearing through the city and causing irreparable damage to neighbourhoods and parks, the activists complained.

At a time when the development fever has caused much damage, the ruling will particularly strengthen the efforts of the common people and social interest groups in their mission to protect public interest.


Coal India’s production to fall short of target in FY’11

New Delhi: Coal India (CIL) today said its production will fall short of target by 16 million tonnes (MT) this fiscal and may miss the expected output by 39 MT in 2011-12 due to extension of tough environmental norms, reports PTI.

"The Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) was supposed to be reviewed in October, but it has been extended till March. As a result, we clearly estimate an impact of 16 million tonnes reduction this year (on production)," Coal India chairman Partha Bhattacharya told reporters here on the sidelines of a Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting.

He added that "if it continues in 2012, then it will affect additional 39 MT, which means it will take away the growth process (of Coal India)".

Coal India has set a production target of 260.5 MT in 2010-11 and it has planned to produce 486.5 MT of coal in 2011-12.

In 2009, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) had introduced the CEPI to categorise the environmental quality at given locations and conducted a nation-wide assessment of industrial clusters.

In a notification on 13th January, the MoEF had imposed a temporary moratorium on development projects in 43 clusters labelled critically polluted as they had a CEPI score of more than 70.

In a circular on 26th October, the MOEF further extended the moratorium considering projects located in critically polluted areas or industrial clusters for environment clearance (EC) till 31 March 2011.

"We have taken up this matter with the MOEF... this pollution index is basically on account of release of toxic wastes mostly. We have seen that score (in coal bearing areas) is much less than CEPI's score of 70," Mr Bhattacharya said.

He further said that "mining activity does not relate to release of toxic wastes", adding that "you allow us coal mining but ensure that coal is not consumed in that area because those areas are critically polluted.

If this dispensation is available, then we should be back on track next year. It is a question of priority."

Seven coalfields-Chandrapur, Korba, Dhanbad, Talcher, Singrauli, Asansol and IB Valley of Orissa-fall under the 43 clusters, where the temporary moratorium on developing projects have been imposed.


Ministers discussing FDI liberalisation: Sharma

New Delhi: As government faces heat on skyrocketing onion and vegetable prices, senior ministers have held discussions on a proposal for opening of multi-brand retail stores to the foreign direct investment (FDI) and hiking the FDI limit in defence production, reports PTI.

The discussions on the key issues of liberalising the FDI in the two sectors were held on Wednesday at a meeting attended by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister P Chidambaram, defence minister AK Antony and commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma.

"We will be having more meetings. Policy (formation) is dynamic...we are very progressive and forward looking," Mr Sharma told reporters here.

While Mr Sharma said there was no connection between the soaring onion prices and the FDI in multi-brand retail, the demand for opening up the sector has been intensifying, especially in the wake of wide gap between the wholesale and retail prices.

The commerce and industry minister said the government has followed a "progressive approach and the liberalisation (in policy) have been incremental".

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) had floated discussion papers on opening FDI in multi-brand retail and increasing it in defence production. Consultations with the stakeholders have been completed.

Giving an annual review of performance of exports and the industrial production, Mr Sharma said the government would give further incentives to the exporting sectors which are labour intensive and have not fully recovered from the last year's slowdown.

"Reviews have been completed. We will now be making final analysis in the first half of January. Where further incentives are required, (they) will be announced," he said.

India's exports in the April-November period of this fiscal have crossed $140 billion, growing by about 27% and the annual target of $200 billion would be met, he said.

Mr Sharma said the country was on course to doubling its exports by 2014 from 2008-09 level of $168 billion.

The government has already taken various steps to help the export sector by giving incentives for market diversification, he said.

However, the FDI inflows have been lower at $12.5 billion for the April-October period this fiscal against $17.6 billion because of sluggish global recovery and "very weak flow of capital".


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